Coping with Terminal Illness in the Family

The terminal illness of a loved one is one of the most devastating things that a family can experience.  It has the potential to break down the bond that holds a family together – causing stress, anxiety and issues of conflict among otherwise healthy, loving individuals.

When a family member is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the questions come fast and furious:

  • What is the best way to communicate with the ill individual?
  • Who will be responsible for their care?
  • Are the individual’s wishes being best served by all members of the family?
  • Is it better to act “normal” in front of the individual – as if nothing has happened?

To help answer these, and other key questions, consider the following tips for how to best cope with a family member who is stricken with cancer, AIDS or another potentially fatal illness.

If the following information does not provide proper relief, it may be helpful to find a program for coping with terminal illness in family members.

Tips for Coping with a Loved One’s Terminal Illness

The following tips are designed to help family best care for their loved one, while still maintain good mental health themselves:

  • Respect their position in the family.  If the dying loved one is a parent, then it is important to allow them to continue to live with dignity in their final days.  Care for them, but don’t treat them like a child.  They will be much more content knowing that they maintained the role of parent until the very end.
  • Delegate responsibility.  Family members who, in caring for their loved one try to take too much upon themselves often end up experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.  A better strategy is to share and delegate care responsibilities with siblings or other family members.
  •  Listen, but don’t be a counselor.  In terms of interacting with a terminally ill family member, there is no underestimating the importance of being a good listener.  Individuals who are gravely ill need to know that their loved ones are a blank canvas on which they can share their fears, hopes and other emotions.  However, it is equally important that the family member does not play the role of counselor.   Rather than providing potential solutions or suggestions, it is more than enough that the individual knows you are there with them – and not going anywhere.
  • Encourage them to talk about their life.  Giving a terminally ill individual a chance to talk about their life provides two benefits: it takes their mind off of the pain associated with their illness, and helps them find peace and satisfaction with everything they have enjoyed and accomplished throughout their lives.
  • Seek professional help.  The individual who is caring for a terminally ill relative will likely experience the key symptoms of depression or simply find themselves burdened with a great deal of mental anguish.  A depression treatment program or anxiety treatment program can help make the caregiver healthier so that they are in a better position to help their loved one.


Through their innovative Overcoming Personal Crisis program, Moonview Sanctuary is able to help those families with a terminally ill family member begin the healing process.  Through caring counseling sessions and holistic treatment to uplift the mind, body and soul, Moonview is able to provide comprehensive care for those who need it most.  Contact Moonview Sanctuary today for more information.




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